Social media

Ok, yes. I guess I am going there. Let’s talk about social media. This is a bit meta, me – on social media – commenting social media life. I’ll try to keep my own principles, but I feel the need to address some things.

First of all, my own agenda with my social media channel is to exchange inspiration, knowledge and ideas with other dogtrainers and handlers. It’s a great way to find new friends, engage in other peoples training and giving each other new ideas.

The dogworld doesn’t look the same everywhere. It’s very clear for me, northern Europe is a lot different compared to the rest of the continent, and don’t get me started on how we differ from America. I don’t believe one of us is doing right tho. As with everything, we have good and bad parts, all of us. I love following people who come from another perspective, it’s the absolute best way to get new ideas – ideas from your own perspective is easy to come up with, but to think outside the box you sometimes need influence from outside your box. I thank social media for this – it’s amazing! I gained friends, role models and idols through this app.

Our differences and the fact that Instagram makes the distance between us shorter doesn’t only mean that I’ll see a lot of new things I like and get inspired by – it also means that I’ll see a lot of things that we/I do different, that I don’t agree with or wouldn’t do myself. It doesn’t mean those things are wrong per se – we sometimes believe in different roads. We have to remember that.

Some things are right or wrong. For example, dogs have to be fed, go out and have a job/activation to feel good. How to teach a focused heel is a matter of taste – both the end result and the way there. And we all must have the space to learn, try and experiment without others telling us what’s “right”.

I am now going to do exactly the thing I want to talk about – talk about how others do on social media. This will be the first and the last time you see me do this – and if you catch me doing it in the future – call my bullshit! This is my one exception, and I’ll stay nice:

I see more and more big accounts talk about how others do on social media. How “people fake it”, “they train for instagram”, “they don’t put time in the right areas” and how they “only post bitework to be cool” – and I ask myself why these rants get so embraced? Why do we feel the need to talk about what others do in negative terms all the time?

If I want more transparent content on Instagram, I try to inspire and set an example – not shame people for not being transparent. If I want more obedience, I try to inspire and set an example – not telling them that nobody wants to see bitework. If I want people to talk about how they do with their dogs in everyday life more, I try to inspire and set an example. And I definitely not shame people for showing their best parts on Instagram – it’s not like they used a stunt dog and faked it, it might just be that one down in motion that was perfect – but why on earth shouldn’t we be able to celebrate that? That down in motion was real, and recorded – let’s see it! It’s inspiring to everyone that it can be reached no matter how it usually looks and that you can work for making that one time your standard. The way of picking in others training telling them that it’s not good enough, that it’s wrong to train a dog to create content and so on is so unsympathetic – my dogs sure as hell doesn’t know if we train for a trial or to make a cool Instagram video – they’re just happy to do stuff together. Let people have their thing.

And most importantly of everything: everyone uses their social media channel in their way, it’s not one right way to train a dog, and it’s not one right way to use social media. As long as you stay nice towards each other it’s ok to be fully transparent, only post perfect inspirational content, only post pictures, explain everything you do or keep your methods a secret and only showing the result. We all chose who we want to follow – and the variety is refreshing! All cannot be judged after your standard, newbies or people with another method than you must have their space creating content of their choice without you creating a judging environment. By doing this we create an illusion of how there is a right and a wrong when it comes to social media and training dogs.

Focus on what you want to fill your channel with and inspire to instead of focusing on trying to rant about how others do all the time – follow people you want to follow and accept that we’re all in this for different reasons and have different skills. We all can learn from each other, no one sits with all the answers – and the ones ranting can absolutely be good trainers – but I lose all respect when they show this narrow minded mentality and can’t wrap their head around how we all, like the dogs we train, are individuals with an own agenda, own goals, own relationship and priorities with our dogs.

In my world it’s simple:

Be nice, stay humble
Ask, don’t question – that’ll give you answers instead of a defence
As long as the dog is happy and well being, we’re all good

Live, and let live. Support each other even if you’re not going the same way. Learn from each other. Social media is amazing, pick your cherries and know that your cherries might be totally different from mine – and that’s the charm. There are many ways to Rome, I hope we all make it!

Now I am done talking about others, throwing rocks in the glasshouse – walking out of the glasshouse and closing the door. Now.

Some thoughts about how to set a training criteria

Like I told you when I got back to this blog, I will try to translate some of my earlier posts and I decided to do so with one I wrote not too long ago when I wrote down some thoughts about my criterias in training and how I define them. I had a bit of a resting period during winter and had a lot of time to think about the exercises we train and how I present them to my dogs. Which parts do I need to teach them, if I really break it down? And how do I put them together. It’s something I feel like I’ve become more unclear about now when I’ve trained my dogs for so many years – that I, when I explain things to my dogs, can be one of those who skips a step or two because they’re so obvious to me. You know, like when you’re new at a workplace and someone says that “it’s super easy, you just log into the printer and press print” – but they forget to show you where the printer is and tell you which one of the 5 passwords you’ve got that goes to the printer, because it’s so obvious as soon as you’ve worked there for a while.

In the same way I’ve felt like I have to define EXACTLY what I want to teach my dogs. Exactly which movement do I want in my left turns? In which pattern do I want them to run the blinds and exactly how do my perfect grips on a dumbbell look? If I don’t define exactly how it’ll look when I’m happy to myself, it won’t possible to explain it to my dogs. If I don’t define how my dream grips looks more than “I want them to be fast”, it’s impossible to pin point what in the grip that wasn’t “fast enough”. But if I know that I want my dog to grip the dumbbell in front of them on their way out, and after that throw their front legs around and turn towards me and run back – I can easier see and make clear to myself if it’s the technique in the pick-up, too low drive and determination in the turning around or the speed back to me that’s not making me happy. The same goes for the blindwork for example – if I know that I want a dog who’s running straight to the blind, wraps around it right in front of it and goes the whole way around back to the same line they approach the blind on – a “tight blindwork” makes perfect sense criteria wise.

I do hear how obvious it sounds – but I don’t think I’m alone with setting criterias like “fast pick-up of dumbbell” and “better left turns” – they’re criterias, but they’re not that clear really. What does a “fast pick-up of dumbbell” really look like to me? And what is in need of improvement in our left turns? Which technique training does my dog need to perform that? I’ve worked through all of our routine and made CLEAR criterias for every exercises to make it clear to me – so I can make it clear to my dogs. Quality training needs quality planning and quality criterias.

I work with introducing and train new staff at my dayjob, and I have to be better at treating my dogs as if they’re new at the job when I introduce them to new stuff. Because even if they’ve been sitting next to me all the hours I’ve spent in front of working-dog and youtube they don’t seem to have done the same meticulous analyzes that I’ve done, haha!

Fear of humans and aggressions – Ninya

One of the things I talked a lot about in the past on my social media channels is Ninya and her fears, aggressions and progress in those matters. The reason why I don’t talk about it nowadays is that I don’t have to think about it anymore. People ask sometimes how we’re doing and I find myself surprised about the fact that I don’t have to adapt my whole life after her. Nothing makes me happier.

I’ll start from the beginning with me, finally buying my first very own puppy, soon to be 6 years ago. Finally, I got my own working dog. A malinois. Everything I ever wanted. I picked her up from Denmark when she was 10 weeks old, and she was the sweetest creature ever. So small, so damn feminine and cute. She refused to pee all the way home and when we got home she got right in, stole my roomies border colles toy from her mouth and peed in my bed. Still the cutest thing I’ve ever encountered. I loved her from first sight.

She was an extremely independent puppy, she wasn’t that social outside training and she showed very early that she wasn’t a fan of people. When my bigger sister leaned over her to say hello – as you do with puppies – she barked in her face and backed away. Clearly insecure, and we socialized her in a calm and forcefree way, but she was a hard nut. It wasn’t the easiest to keep people away when we went by public transportations 1 hour to work and 1 hour home every day with the cutest malinois puppy on earth.

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And then there was one morning after a few months, on our way to work, it was a few days after new years eve and we met a guy who was clearly under the influence of something. He threw a firecracker at Ninya – and I became so angry, told him to f***ng stop – and then he flipped. He kicked her, pushed me, yelled at us and he threw his jacket at her (?). She was so angry, fighting for her LIFE. She was already afraid of people and now this. Nobody on the train station helped us, and we got saved by the train coming in. He followed us on the train, me crying, begging him to go away. Eventually he did. Ninya tried to kill everyone who moved on two legs from that day.

This is, obviously, not a stable and healthy dog. She’s from the beginning afraid of people, and this event sticked with her. For years. If someone moved to quick, encountered us, talked to me, showed up in a place she didn’t expect them to – she freaked out. She reacted in fear, with anger. From 0 to 100. It was incredibly hard to live with. I was so ashamed. I had no car, I had to bring her to work, and I lived in an apartment. It was people everywhere. Introducing her to new people wasn’t any idea at all, she couldn’t let anyone in. She barely let me in.

At the same time she was a wonderful dog. Not afraid of anything else – environments, sounds, darkness – she’s a cool kid. And she was amazing in training, a real obedience star. The conditions we lived in gave her so little time to relax and reload tho – with people everywhere she turned in to a stressed monster – and she didn’t eat, she barely slept and she was thin as a stick. She wasn’t living the good life, at all. It hurt, deep inside of me I knew I couldn’ let her live if she wasn’t getting any better soon. It wasn’t a fair life, and rehoming a dog so extremely afraid of new people wasn’t an option.

So many dog people told me to “just shoot her between her eyes”, and I can see where they come from (even tho that might be the rudest way to suggest that in..) but I was so damn invested, in love and in some way determinated to give her a better life.

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I can’t be more thankful towards the people who helped me out in the end. Friends and dogpeople who helped me fix her. I’ll try to summarize how I did to help her handle her fears in a list, it’s of course horribly simplified – feel free to ask if somethings unclear.

1.  I took away all social interaction where she wasn’t 100% safe. No saying hello, no hanging out, no coming with me to people she didn’t already let in to 100%. I wanted to show her that it’s possible to choose to not encounter people, that we won’t – take away the feeling in her that she would have to. I made sure that no one tried to talk, pet or get close to her – I took the whole responsibility for that people would leave her alone. It was an absolute must to be able to put the demands on her that I did in step 2.

2.  I corrected all her outbursts. There’s some things you just don’t do, and trying to kill people is one of them. The absolute must for this is that step 1 is working, that I actually make sure that she gets to be left alone. The point with step two is to show her something like “if you let people be, I make sure they let you be”. The more outbursts, the more attention, fast moving (fleeing) people and the more outbursts – it’s a never ending circle and I had to break it. I didn’t let her control her surroundings – staring at people and movements either, that’s my task – I took that responsibility away from her.

3. I buildt her condfidence up in general, for example I let her jump on to things, balance and play in different environments where I helped her to succeed – everything that made her feel like she could DO IT. And I kept her training going – the obedience and play training made us bond and our relationship grow, in these situations it’s super important to build trust. Her tracking training was another factor that gave her confident to work independently and trust herself and her ability to work through things.

Today she’s as fixed as she can be. She’s still not a fan of people, but everyone I greet as a friend is her friend, she seeks protection by me instead of blowing up in a full blown attack when she feels threatened and she chooses to avoid people instead of seeking conflicts. I seriously cry thinking about how happy she is now. She’s off leash everywhere, trustable, my easiest dog to live with. And I thought that I had to put her down.

It took time. And patience. And I cried and were on my way to give up like a hundred of times. But it was all worth it in the end – I wouldn’t put in that time in a dog with fears again – but for her I would do it over and over again.

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The blog is back!

So, I will try to bring life back into this blog – and I got some wishes on Instagram to do this in English, so I will try to not to let my swenglish become too bad and do this so all of you can read. And I will try to translate some of the good ones (I was a pretty good blogger back in the days, if I can say it myself!) out of my old posts for you too!

I asked for tips regarding subjects on Instagram and you gave me a whole bunch. I’ll write some posts about how I live with my dogs and our everyday life, how I think about some subjects in dogtraining and answer questions I get here and on Instagram that I think deserves some extra space and longer explanations – so feel free to ask away both here and on Instagram!

I get a lot of questions about if I work full time with dogs, and I don’t, I actually have a full time job at a finance company – where I train our human staff instead of dogs. So my training with my dogs, and all of my clients and seminars are on what’s supposed to be my “free time”. I choose to work with this because I love dogtraining, I love teaching and of course I have a dream about to making my living out of this, but I feel like I have a while left until I can do that. The dogworld looks a bit different here compared to the rest of the world – we don’t do board and train for example. Now we’ve started to have some seminars abroad and we plan to do more of those, which feels like a lot of fun.

I have some plans and they don’t include staying at my office job – so I’m definitely moving towards making a living out of this, but I’ll take it in smaller steps and the first one will be taken now in a few weeks and this year is dedicated to this specific goal – besides my training goals with my dogs, which is a question I get a lot too, and I got it a few times when I asked for subjects for the blog so I’ll just go there too! With Härja and Judas I am competing in IGP, and Härjas goal for this year is IGP3 – we just passed IGP2 and I actually already signed her up for her 3 – in two months! Feels crazy to be there with her, the hardest obedience dog I’ve ever had and a dog who we pretty much have fixed the protection work with ourselves – me and my obedience girls, even tho she’s doing her reps on a helper from time to time!

With Judas I aim to trial IGP1 this autumn. I am not in a hurry but obedience wise he’s more than ready and the tracking is on track. The protection work is where I don’t want to hurry, so we’ll see how the pieces fall together over the summer – but as our helper, Timo Helynen, always says: more training! Looking forward to watch him grow and develop, it feels amazing to have a dog with all this potential, I love walking into the field with him – he’s an amazing young dog!

Ninya is not an IGP dog, she´s too weak for protection and she has her hurt leg – so she’s in the Swedish tracking program. She’s starting the third level out of four now late this summer if all goes as I want it to and she gets to be pain free. I want her to become a champion in the Swedish tracking program before she’s retiring – but I think that we’ll take it when it comes, she’s starting to feel a bit old and she has her leg on strike sometimes. She’s wonderful to track and compete with, I hope I can enjoy that for many years to come. Most of all I want her to live a happy and relaxed life filled with fun, she’s my special little lady and I think that I’ll dedicate my next post to her – I get a lot of questions when I mention her background as an extremely stressed dog, afraid of people, dogs and impossible to have around. She’s a whole other dog nowadays and I thought it would be interesting for you to hear her story and how I worked with her to get through – if you have any questions about it just hit me up with a comment!

Feels good to be at it again in this blog, and I think I’ll feel comfortable in English after a few posts, bare with me!

Photo by the always amazing Kajsa Johansson

How I´m planning our training sessions

Since our more serious training have been put on hold the last few months, and we just walked in the forest and played around for fun, we had to get our shit together – and we’re now back on track with our training again. It’s so much fun, and I’m really enjoing my fantastic working dogs. We’ve a new set of goals; Härja has a BH-test in a few weeks and Ninya is entering the Swedish tracking program, and of course we continue to compete FCI obedience.

With our new goals and since we’ve signed up for some competitions, we have no longer the time to play catch and play around – we have to plan, get structure and make sure to evolve our skills! I love having a goal, create a plan and be able to measure and see our development. I’ve always been one of those who thinks that it’s hard to plan our training, where do you begin and what’s important to include to make it an effective tool to make us move forward and get better? After many years as a dogtrainer I’ve found a few tricks and ways of doing it that I find to be good – but I can always be better and most of all more consistent, to always plan our training and never let a session go to waste, without a purpose (“have fun” can be a purpose, it’s not dead serious, ok?). But I think that it’s important to have an overview so we’re not stuck in the trap of rewarding the same things, that our dog already know, and never work on our weaknesses or move forward.

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foto: Christina Mokdasi

When I’m writing a plan from scratch I’m usually takes the dog out and go through the class we’re supposed to compete next time we’re competing, whenever that is. After this session I’m making a list of the good parts, and the things that we need to work on. Every part of the program. This list of things that we need to work on makes a lil’ buffet to choose from when you’re planning your next session. Pick parts from the list, and work on you weaknesses. When you’re done with a training session, always make a list of the things you have to work more at, according to the session you just had. When you’re doing this, you’re always basing your next session on the one you just had, and your plans keep following your development. Occasionally I’ll go out and go though the whole program again, evaluates the session, compare the list to the one from last time we did the whole program – and makes a new list of things to work on.

This way to structure my training has been very clear and easy for me. I’m always up to date with our weaknesses and we’re keeping track of new things that might appear. And every once in a while, we’ll check how our work is going by going through the whole program. With two dogs, three sports and a bit of a confused brain it’s easy for me to forget new thoughts, problems or soulutions if I’m not writing it down and actually includes it in my next session. And who has the time for a novel every time you’ve been training your dogs? A list of things to think of, work on and take with us is the perfect middle ground.

We’re currently trying to train 5 days a week, at least 3 tracks a week (one of our goals for 2017 is to track 100 tracks!) and keep our development going. I’m also going to put some extra time on training with others, and in new environments – preferably with a lot of dogs, to secure their ability to work whenever and make them strong in every situation.

It’s time to become our best possible shape, this year is filled with competitions and adventures – we’re pumped!!